The Importance and Benefits of Teaching Gardening to Children Toddlers to Preschoolers

There’s this common misconception that gardening is an activity best suited for the elderly.

However, that is not even remotely true. You see, studies have shown that there are many benefits of introducing gardening to kids at age toddlers to preschoolers. Through garden play, children acquire and improve crucial skills, have fun, and develop self-confidence all the while enjoying a nature-friendly childhood in the Montessori way.

But, how exactly does gardening help a child’s development?

What do you learn from gardening?

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Well in this article, at MontessoriNature.com we will go over just that.

Skills learned from gardening engage all senses

A garden can be an interactive playground for kids that will engage all of their senses. It’s where they can touch and feel the fruits of their labor, fancy the brightly colored flowers, grow accustomed to natural scents, and the sound of rustling shrubs. Of course, you can do indoor gardening with children, too.

To involve all the senses will feed both curiosity and passion in toddlers and thus, the love for gardening and the science behind it, says Gena Lorraine, a fantastic gardening & horticulturist expert. It is at an early age when parents should nourish these activities the most, she added.

But what are the skills children learn from nature and how does gardening help a child’s development?

  • Reliability and responsibility when it comes to taking care of a plant day after day;
  • Self-confidence: nothing is more rewarding than the fruits of our own labour;
  • Learning cause and effect – do good, not bad;
  • Curiosity in species, growing tips, Botanics and more;
  • Physical activity: gardening makes you move a lot;
  • Exploring texture: Gaining insight on density, weight, malleability, permeability, and more;
  • Growing the love of nature: putting love in what they grow;
  • Teamwork: friends or family;
  • Math: counting days, measuring nutrition, light exposure and more;
  • Creativity: crafting own landscape designs or painting a pair of wellies.

When gardening with your kids, try growing plants that possess sensory and textural qualities. Here are a few good examples of sensory plants suitable for kindergarten gardening.

  • Touch – Houseleek, Jerusalem sage, Lamb’s ears and Snapdragons can teach your children the different textures plants have;
  • Taste – Strawberries, Chives, Rosemary and Cherry tomatoes are just a few of many healthy and tasty treats, simple to grow for children to enjoy (especially when eaten, of course);
  • Smell – Lavender, Chocolate cosmos, Jasmine and Lemon balm give off heady fragrances;
  • Sound – Greater quaking-grass, Sweet corn and Bamboo rustle when the wind blows;
  • Sight – Spider flowers, Sulfur Cosmos, Chameleon plant and Sunflowers are great as they’re colourful and visually appealing.

Gardening encourages children to eat healthier. 

It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables taste better when you grow them yourself. This holds true for children too.

Getting toddlers or preschoolers involved in gardening allows them to experience plant care and nourish a responsible, consistent and positive attitude towards hard work. 

For self-grown fruits and veggies children will take great pride, you can rest assured.

Before you can think of it, they will be eating tomatoes, spinach, and even celery! By explaining the importance of gardening from an early age, healthy eating will become a day-to-day habit shaping the foundations of any young mind.

Gardening enhances fine motor development

It goes without saying that gardening and fine motor skills go hand in hand. While in the garden, children are constantly practicing their locomotor skills without thinking about it. In the garden, children have to move around a lot to tackle tasks like watering, fertilizing, pruning, mounting plant stakes, digging, weeding, bending, and gathering, organizing, and storing seeds.

This is how gardening allows children to develop a proactive and healthy routine in life.

Gardening introduces children to science

Using gardening as a way to teach children science is a fairly new and unique approach but considerably rewarding. Not only do young ones become a part of the learning process, but they acquire practical knowledge not found in textbooks.

Here are some examples of sciences that can be taught in the garden :

  • Botany – through the interaction with plants and dissection of seeds;
  • Chemistry – through composting;
  • Math – through the planting and management of seeds;
  • Meteorology – monitoring the weather and its effects on the garden.

Gardening reduces both the level and effect of stress

Gardening can be a huge stress reliever for children as it teaches how to relax, calm down and control emotions. Spending time in nature, amongst flowers and trees has been proven to make both children and the elderly feel happier.

According to many studies, working out in the garden for just 30 minutes a day reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol significantly. Therefore, gardening is a perfect activity to introduce your children to, as it keeps the stress away.

Gardening teaches young one’s patience, improves focus, and enhances memory, too

Nowadays, children have an ever-shorter attention span mainly because of the immediate gratification that our digital age provides.

A great way to teach children patience and also improve their focus is through regular garden care.

  • To achieve that you need to be patient and let children make mistakes to learn from;
  • Give children their own space and actively encourage them to take responsibility for the plants they sow, this, in turn, will instil in them gratification when their plants progress;
  • It’s recommendable to start with sowing fast growers as that way kids can witness the fruits of their labour over the course of just a few weeks and won’t lose interest;
  • The constant involvement of children in the gardening process improves alertness, memory and even cognitive abilities, thanks to math and repetition.

Gardening teaches children the responsibility of preserving the environment

Helping kids get into the habit of caring for seeds and plants they’ve sown can instill a great sense of responsibility. Be sure to prepare and follow a checklist of daily, weekly and monthly chores. Аlso, monitor your child’s gardening progress and do your best to help them when needed, without interfering too much. This is how gardening develops children, by teaching them that good things take time and effort.

Gardening nourishes self-confidence

Confidence is crucial for the healthy development of any child. It might come as no surprise but gardening helps children feel more capable. Looking after a plant, from sowing until bloom, and seeing their hard work pay off can substantially boost a child’s sense of competence.

When it comes to childcare, the benefits of delayed gratitude take long to teach but at the end of the day, are absolutely worth it.

Gardening with toddlers bonds the family

It should be present in every household. To set up you don’t need to have a huge backyard, not really. A few pots on the balcony are absolutely sufficient. The time families spend in the garden helps strengthen their bonds to create multiple and meaningful memories. As children learn they set solid grounds fоr great adulthood or something. What they like and what they don’t. What is wrong and what is right.

Altogether, gardening in childcare is an interesting, educational, healthy, and social activity that every child deserves. Although growing a garden as a regular activity can take a while, the payoff is more than worth it!

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About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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